The Importance of Philosophy or
“Why Should I Take Philosophy?”
Dave Yount, Ph.D.
Once someone who does not know me well comes to find out that I am a philosopher, the next question that he or she inevitably asks is, “What can you do with philosophy besides teach?” My answer is and has been, “You can think, and hopefully better.” Part of philosophy is critical thinking, which is the ability to question your (or anyone else’s) assumptions, discover and hopefully articulate good reasons for your position, no matter what your position is. Everyone has a position on every issue, even if it is, “I don’t know.” One can then ask this person, “Why do you not know? Should you have a view on this issue?” Even if your view is that some issue does not matter, you must defend that view against the person who does think that that issue matters. And defending your view requires the ability to use your reason (which of course is thinking) in order to discover what good or bad reasons are and the best support for your position. Philosophy can be used to help convince people that you are right, and (sometimes, when it’s done correctly, and depending on your opponent’s view) that they are wrong. For example, if you want a raise from your boss, if you know what good reasons are, such as increasing the sales of the company, the quality of the product, the efficiency of the company, etc., and how to show the way in which these elements are vital to the company’s well-being, you would stand a better chance of getting a raise than if you were to argue with your boss using bad reasons, such as: “My poor family cannot live on my salary alone, and I really need to have more money” or “If you don’t give me a raise, I’m going to quit and take my friends with me.” The reason the first appeal (about your poor family) is a bad one, is that it is an appeal to pity or emotion, and if you haven’t benefited the company lately, then it doesn’t really matter if your family is going hungry – it is...
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